As the United States rushes Americans out of Afghanistan, there's concern for Afghan allies who assisted our soldiers for years.
Veteran foreign correspondent Mike Boettcher’s phone rang nearly nonstop Monday with friends and former co-workers checking in.
“The last few days have been hell,” he said. “I’m a guy who’s seen a lot, but I’m having a very difficult time coming to grips with this.”
Boettcher, now a journalism professor at the University of Oklahoma, is from Ponca City and is recognized as one of the world’s most experienced foreign correspondents, covering wars and revolutions in every part of the globe including spending a combined five years in Afghanistan documenting the American fight against the Taliban.
“What’s happening right now is a total intelligence, diplomatic and military failure. We need, I mean by God, an aggressive look at what happened,” Boettcher said.
He said four presidents from both parties all lost their way in Afghanistan turning what began as a counterterrorism effort into a nation building exercise. A country whose own soldiers, Boettcher said, simply have no will to fight.
“If you were a poor Afghan in the middle of Hellman Province, you’re going to expect no help from the government. If you’re an Afghan soldier and you haven’t been paid because a corrupt commander or district official is taking your money, then you’re not going to fight for the government. And that’s what happened,” Boettcher said.
He said it's painful to watch the Taliban retake control of the capital city of Kabul as Americans flee, throwing out progress achieved nearly 20 years earlier.
“I’ve seen soldiers and marines lose their lives. I’ve seen them survive and come home only to take their own lives later on because of what this war did to the inside of their head,” Boettcher said.” There are some that are living with it, including myself, every day of their lives; things that we saw and we witnessed over there. The war is not over for those folks. It’s still there and we have to remember that.”
According to the department of defense, 49 service members killed in Afghanistan during Operations Enduring Freedom and Freedom’s Sentinel listed Oklahoma as their home state.